Ethics panel benches two attorneys in Waters probe

posted at 10:12 am on December 1, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

While Maxine Waters demands an ethics hearing before the end of this session, the House Ethics Committee seems to have dissolved into chaos.  The panel has indefinitely suspended the lead attorney on the Waters probe, Morgan Kim, as well as one other lawyer working for the panel.  Politico reports that the suspensions stem from “serious problems” and may be contributing to the delay in public hearings, and notes another coincidence as well:

It is unclear if the decision to place Kim and Sovereign on paid leave was related to the Waters’ case or another matter, although they were placed in that status on the same day that Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the committee, announced the Waters’ trial was delayed. The committee announced that it had new information, including e-mails from Moore, that would have an impact on the Waters’ matter.

The ethics trial was to have begun on Monday, but the ethics panel found more evidence of wrongdoing just a week prior to the start of the hearing.  It’s taken a week to discover that the two attorneys, one of whom led the probe, got suspended at the same time.  That may be coincidental, but it doesn’t make much sense to suspend the lead attorney when new evidence arises — unless that evidence came from another source, perhaps one the lead attorneys missed. In fact, Politico reports that the chief counsel for the committee wanted both fired, not suspended:

Blake Chisam, the chief counsel and staff director for the ethics panel, initially sought to fire Kim and Sovereign on Nov. 19, but was unable to do so.

However, the two attorneys are no longer assigned to any active cases, said the sources.

Curious.  It will be even more curious to see whether Waters’ attorney attempts to make hay out of this development, or tries to avoid it.  The situation may give them some opening to attack the process.  If they ignore it, then it may be that the two attorneys either overlooked or deliberately ignored evidence that hurts Waters’ cause.  Otherwise, it will probably be a long time before anyone knows the circumstances of this roster change.

Update: The Hill underscores my point:

Cindy Morgan Kim, the deputy chief counsel and the lead attorney on the Waters case, and Stacy Sovereign, who supplemented Kim on the case, were placed on administrative leave the same day Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chairs the panel, and Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), its ranking member, announced an indefinite delay of Waters public trial, which was set to begin Nov. 29.

The departures are a bad harbinger for the ethics panel’s case against Waters and give the 20-term California lawmaker leverage to achieve a reduced penalty if not a dismissal of the case. While the ethics committee does not operate under the same rules of criminal procedure, members and the public have a recent reminder of the prosecutorial misconduct involved in the case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Did the panel suspend Kim and Sovereign for not disclosing evidence to the defense, though, or not pursuing it vigorously enough for the prosecution?  We’ll know by the way Waters’ defense uses this development, or by the extent that they ignore it.


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Like peanut butter and jelly, Maxine Waters and dirty tricks are inseparable.

fogw on December 1, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Raaaaaaaaaacist!

Slap on wrist coming with heavily worded letter!

trs on December 1, 2010 at 10:25 AM

There’s also the possibility that the attorneys withheld evidence from the committee itself, or had improper communications with Waters’ legal team without informing the committee. If that’s not the case, we should be getting a leak from Maxine’s side about the nature of the violation before the day is over.

jon1979 on December 1, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Waters is going to walk.

capejasmine on December 1, 2010 at 10:26 AM

It is sure that Maxie baby wants this handled by the lame duck House; there will be a much less friendly environment awaiting her if this drags into January.

Still, the worst they will do is censure her.

GnuBreed on December 1, 2010 at 10:28 AM

Does it even matter? What’s the worst that could happen? A Censure? oooooooh!

Alden Pyle on December 1, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Blake Chisam, the chief counsel and staff director for the ethics panel, initially sought to fire Kim and Sovereign on Nov. 19, but was unable to do so.

The only time you see someone in charge that pissed is when an underlying has tried to hide something that could end up getting people fired later, like those emails. This will not help Waters because what was being hidden/ignored hurt her.

Rocks on December 1, 2010 at 10:30 AM

All Dems walk…just ask Tom Delay.

royzer on December 1, 2010 at 10:32 AM

So is the Stalinist progressive Obama faction winning here, or is it the Trotsky progressive Clinton faction?

Skandia Recluse on December 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Afraid you are right capejasmine

cmsinaz on December 1, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Most.Ethical.Congress.Evah.

*insert puke sound here*

Sponge on December 1, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Skandia Recluse on December 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Maybe it’s the Blue Dog Menshevik faction.

abobo on December 1, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Nothing will come of this and nothing will happen to that two-bit scoundrel Waters. No wonder we’re broke . . . we’re being led by fools, crooks and self indulgent idiots.

rplat on December 1, 2010 at 10:46 AM

Given the worse that can come for an Ethics Panel guilty judgement, there is no risk of “life or limb”

J_Crater on December 1, 2010 at 10:47 AM

I call “Shenanigans!”, again…

Fallon on December 1, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Can the situation be so bad that they want to let the GOP clean up the mess in January?

One can only hope.

Getting this statist monster exposed as a truly criminal corruptocrat (which I believe she is) would be a very good thing. It would be a drop in the bucket, to be sure, but a particularly foul drop.

njcommuter on December 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM

There’s also the possibility that the attorneys withheld evidence from the committee itself, or had improper communications with Waters’ legal team without informing the committee…
jon1979 on December 1, 2010 at 10:25 AM

That’s my guess. And if Maxine learned that the committee discovered it, she would be calling for an early trial like this.

elfman on December 1, 2010 at 11:00 AM

THIS LOOKS LIKE A JOB FOR CHRIS CHRISTIE!!!!

I can think of no one better who could put Maxine The Mouth in her place and I mean put in her place with EXTREMEprejudice!

pilamaye on December 1, 2010 at 11:04 AM

While the ethics committee does not operate under the same rules of criminal procedure, members and the public have a recent reminder of the prosecutorial misconduct involved in the case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

I think this (misconduct directed against Waters) is unlikely since the Dems are running the Committee.

….then it may be that the two attorneys either overlooked or deliberately ignored evidence that hurts Waters’ cause.

If I had to make a prediction, that would be it.

tgharris on December 1, 2010 at 11:50 AM

It makes no diffeence whatever sanction they apply to her, because her supine and sheeple electorate will continue to re-elect her no matter what. THEY are the ones with no principles ulitmately. She could do any kind of heinous crime, but because she has a D after her name, she’s golden.

Blindsummit on December 1, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Maxine Waters: Teflon Don-na

juanito on December 1, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Just goes to show..

It doesn’t do much good to drain the swamp, when all the crap clings to the side of the bowl.

franksalterego on December 1, 2010 at 1:41 PM

Unfortunately Maxine will never be put up on an ethics trial. Politics of race will prevent it. Watch and see.

FireBlogger on December 1, 2010 at 2:32 PM

The reason for the delays here is Charlie Rangel. The democratics don’t want to discipline two blacks in the same session of Congress. Good old double-A at work again.

slickwillie2001 on December 1, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Who will head the ethics committee next January? We aren’t going to get much info before then.

Unless they rush this through to keep it away from Republican eyes.

But still there is so so much smoke here, I’m thinking the lawyers got caught in a cover up, bribe or something of the like. They are Democrats after all.

petunia on December 1, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Why do they suspend, with pay, people who screw up?

Cindy Munford on December 1, 2010 at 5:04 PM

One or our local radio folks has been pointing out there is still no penalty for Stealing While Black if you’re a member of Congress…

golfer1 on December 2, 2010 at 7:44 AM